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Mike Ravine, Advanced Projects Manager for Malin Space Science Systems  (Source: torynfarr/flickr)

A two-image panorama shot with the rover's 1024 x 1024 mono navigation cameras  (Source: NASA)
Reasons included the amount of data produced, the fact that they had to meet the needs of different cameras, and the team's familiarity with these sensors

NASA recently accomplished a huge feat by landing its Mars rover Curiosity on the Red Planet, but one of the questions on the minds of many was why such a sophisticated machine used 2 MP cameras.
Mike Ravine, a project manager from Malin Space Science Systems, was happy to answer that in an interview with Digital Photography Review. He said the main reasons for using 2 MP sensors in the cameras were the amount of data produced, the fact that they had to meet the needs of different cameras, and the team's familiarity with these sensors.
"There's a popular belief that projects like this are going to be very advanced, but there are things that mitigate against that," said Ravine. "These designs were proposed in 2004, and you don't get to propose one specification then go off and develop something else. Two MP with 8 GB of flash didn't sound too bad in 2004. But it doesn't compare well to what you get in an iPhone today."
The amount of data produced is a large reason for using 2 MP cameras. There just isn't enough bandwidth for anything more powerful because the cameras must share with other instruments. Curiosity sends data back to Earth via the UHF transmitter, which transmits to two spacecraft orbiting Mars. The data is then sent back to Earth, and this system only allows for 250 megabits per day to be shared amongst various instruments.
The 2 MP camera sensors also were the tools of choice for the use of four different cameras, including the MAHLI, MARDI and two Mastcams. Having four different sensors for each camera would be expensive and more difficult to maintain rather than having one type of sensor all across the board. 
The team's familiarity with the sensors was crucial, too. The team knew the behavior of Truesense imaging chips and Kodak's KAI-2020 chip, so it makes sense that they'd work with what they know. 
"We know how to clock them and drive them," said Ravine. "They're a very easy CCD to drive."
Other issues, like the low pixel count, are not an issue either since the two Mastcams will create images from multiple exposures. 
NASA rover Curiosity landed successfully on Mars earlier this week after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 26, 2011. Curiosity is a one-ton, nuclear-powered, Mini Cooper-sized science laboratory that will explore the Martian surface for the next two years. 

Source: Digital Photography Review

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RE: Still no reason why they couldn't put 8MP
By Hieyeck on 8/9/2012 1:57:23 PM , Rating: 4
What all of NASA gets to spend in a year, the US military pisses away in 30 minutes in a single conflict. You expected any better?

By delphinus100 on 8/9/2012 10:21:45 PM , Rating: 2
(sigh) 'The military' often has to pass serious amounts of data through a finite bandwith as well (and sometimes under attack).

Shannon's Law doesn't care about anyonme's budget or politics...

RE: Still no reason why they couldn't put 8MP
By mindless1 on 8/10/2012 1:03:27 PM , Rating: 3
Biased much? Military is essential to preserving our way of life. Space exploration won't be as beneficial to society until the day comes that we have to leave the planet and have somewhere else hospitable to travel to.

You might say the space program developed a lot of tech in our lives today. Certainly true but how does the program exist? By preserving our society and global peacekeeping efforts by the military.

Funny how someone can benefit from peace but not appreciate the cost to maintain it. Without the population willing to go to war (Americans are spoiled by their prosperity, and yes I am American) what remains is using technology and special ap tech costs are quite high, there is only one customer.

RE: Still no reason why they couldn't put 8MP
By BansheeX on 8/11/2012 2:41:18 PM , Rating: 1
America hasn't had to preserve itself since WWII, not to mention WWII was actually paid for with war bonds. Every ill-conceived adventure since then has been purely to line the pockets of the industries that Smedley Butler warned us about. We're going to destroy society all by ourselves with debt-financed welfare and warfare. Look at the trade deficits we're running each month, look at the Fed's inability to raise rates past 0 without bankrupting our biggest banks and insurers again. We're like Greece with a printing press right now. Interest rates are necessary to create savings from which real loans and capital come, but when your national debt is this high and short-term, 1.5 trillion to interest alone is hard to pay when tax revenue is 2 trillion and you're spending 4 trillion.

RE: Still no reason why they couldn't put 8MP
By mindless1 on 8/11/2012 8:03:06 PM , Rating: 2
... BECAUSE we have such a mighty military.
Yes there certainly is that industry/profit angle but at the same time, everyone profits from stable world wide markets instead of repairing destroyed cities and developing weapons of mass destruction.

The military budget is not destroying society. You can't just lump in essential government services with all the nonsense that money is wasted on.

Military spending in inflation-adjusted dollars hasn't changed all that much for over half a century, while the national debt skyrocketed since the early 1980's or especially in the last 4 years. It's the OTHER programs getting out of control that make the interest on that debt seem out of proportion, by not leaving enough in the budget to spend nearly the same we used to.

By johnsmith9875 on 8/14/2012 4:12:00 PM , Rating: 1
Military spending is 100% discretionary. Obligations paid to our taxpayers are mandatory, thats why they're called obligations.

Republicans have redefined this using their Orwellian Newspeak Dictionary and have called them "Entitlements".

By johnsmith9875 on 8/14/2012 4:08:11 PM , Rating: 1
The military's job is preserving itself, and preserving socialist jobs that wealthy businessmen in the defense industry want to keep.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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